Turnaround time — also referred to as TAT — refers to the length of time it takes for a background check to be completed. In the background screening industry, the general industry average TAT is three to five days for a CRA to deliver results to the end user. At Wholesale Screening, our average TAT is much shorter at 31.5 hours across all jurisdictions. But as a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA), when your client has a good hire on the line, time is of the essence and even an accepted TAT can feel far too long of a wait. It gets even worse when, even for good reason, a background check takes upwards of a week, 10 days, or even two weeks.
Turnaround times are one of the end user’s most frequent sources of dissatisfaction with a CRA. In turn, it’s one of a CRA’s biggest sources of dissatisfaction with their public records research provider. Long TATs can also negatively impact applicants who are waiting for clearance to start their new jobs.
It’s important to remember that it’s not the mere length of time something takes, but it’s the lack of transparency into the process that makes TATs so frustrating. Understanding what drives those turnaround times and being able to manage your clients’ expectations is key. Knowing upfront how long a search should take, being able to see where that search is in the pipeline, and being able to predict whether the search will be ready on time can all help you manage client expectations and drive satisfaction.
Let’s look specifically at TATs for criminal records research.
4 factors that impact TAT:
1. Availability of Online Records:
In cases where we can run an online search of a court’s records, the TATs can be very fast. In jurisdictions where online records are not available or only partially-available, the turnaround will increase.
2. Scope of Search:
TAT is naturally impacted by the scope of a research request. A search that goes back 7 years is typical but when that timeframe extends to 10 years or longer, the turnaround time might have to extend. As the lookback period extends, it is common that the research will require cover multiple jurisdictions and the further back the records go, the greater chance the records may have to be searched by hand as opposed to online.
3. Redaction/Removal of PII:
A growing trend in some jurisdictions is the redaction or removal of personally identifying information (PII), which impacts turnaround time for criminal records screening by making it more difficult or sometimes impossible to match a record to an individual with 100% accuracy. Read about the unintended consequences of PII removal.
4. Diversity within the Supplier Network:
By diverse, we mean having more than one supplier or at least having a large enough team in place to ensure demand can be met. If your research provider lacks a diverse network, you will experience the pain of slow TATs at some point in time, whether due to a researcher getting sick, a sudden uptick in volume, or some other unexpected factor. Read how to test your public records research provider’s supplier network.
Do “averages” matter?
Vendors in the public records space are quick to tout their average TATs. This is an important metric. But if you really want to get under the hood of a vendor’s TAT in a particular jurisdiction, be sure to also look at their outliers. If they average 2 days but you are also seeing reported TATs of 2 weeks, 10 days, and other extreme differences, you should be wary and ask questions. It could be a true anomaly or it might indicate a real issue in that jurisdiction with staffing, training, or other resources.
Transparency is key.
Satisfaction with turnaround times requires vendors to actually maintain tight TATs but an often-overlooked component of TAT is the level of transparency between CRAs and their public records research providers. Transparency and accuracy around estimated turn-arounds leads to fewer misunderstandings, greater efficiency, and an all-around better customer experience. When you are able to have a clear view into TATs, you can better manage your business and your customers and you can maintain accountability with your provider.
At Wholesale Screening Solutions, our operating system, FuseOS, automatically updates and pushes ETAs to our customers 24/7. Furthermore, FuseOS keeps our turnaround times on track by identifying outliers in real-time so we can resolve the issues before customers feel the impact.